By Ger McCarthy
TOGHER Celtic go in search of their first West Cork League Beamish Cup success since 1997 against Drinagh Rangers but will start as underdogs on Sunday.
Despite encouraging early season form, any hopes of Togher upsetting the favourites and capturing a Premier Division title was scuppered by drawing six and losing four of their 16 league outings.
In contrast, Celtic reserved some of their best performances for the Beamish Cup and deservedly earned a place in this weekend’s decider.
‘The league draws definitely hurt us because, out of the six, there were three we probably should have won,’ Togher manager Johnny Collins told the Southern StarPodcast.
‘That took a bit of momentum out of us and we ended up losing to Lyre Rovers after drawing with Clonakilty Town. After that we knew we were [mathematically] out of the title race. We weren’t far off it and battling away with the rest of the teams but that’s just the way it goes.’
On a more positive note, defeating Clonakilty AFC, Castlelack and Ballydehob set up a Beamish Cup semi-final with Mizen AFC which Togher edged 1-0. The ability to grind out results in a knockout competition, especially against title-chasers Ballydehob in the quarter-finals, underlines the talent within Togher’s current setup.
‘We knew it was going to be tough [against Ballydehob] but the advantage was that we were at home on the day,’ Johnny Collins noted.
‘Ballydehob are probably the physically strongest team in the West Cork League. They travelled full-strength but everyone in our team was focused that day. We were out of the league running so we said we would just tear into them and see how we got on. It was probably our best result [3-1] of the season so far, performance-wise.
‘Niall [Hurley] always pops up with a goal and has been consistent for us all season. Darren Kelly in midfield played very well too. In the semi-final win over Mizen, I would admit the result was more important that our actual performance.
‘We had reached a Beamish Cup semi-final on only three occasions since 1997. We thought surely, this will be third time lucky but the lads were nervous that day and that was down to me, as I was as nervous as any of them.’
Togher overcame their nerves and awkward weather conditions to squeeze past a dogged Mizen 1-0 after extra time and setup a meeting with Drinagh Rangers. Collins acknowledges his opponents are odds-on favourites but the underdog tag will relieve some of the pressure on his team.
‘[Being underdogs] will ease some of the pressure on our players as long as I am not too nervous myself on the day!’ the Togher Celtic manager commented.‘Everyone expects Drinagh to get one over us again so it suits us to be underdogs. With Drinagh, you cannot switch off but we know we can go toe to toe with them. Spirit is Togher’s greatest strength and we will take a win any way we can get it on Sunday.’